U.S. Senate sinks bill to let Delta Queen leave Chattanooga, cruise the Ohio River

The riverboard Delta Queen will stay shackled to Chattanooga’s shore for the time being after an attempt to move the boat to Cincinnati so it can cruise the Ohio River went awry in the U.S. Senate, reports the Times Free-Press.

“It is what it is,” Leah Ann Ingram, managing partner at Delta Queen Hotel, said Friday about the bill going aground.

Two U.S. Senate Democrats from the East Coast faced down the entire delegation from Ohio in a showdown over a battered paddlewheel steamer that enthusiasts say evokes the glory days of Mark Twain-era river culture.

According to The Cincinnati Enquirer, Sens. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., and Ben Cardin, D-Md., used a move called a “hold” to effectively strangle a bill that would have resurrected the Delta Queen, even after an identical bill sailed through the U.S. House.

At issue is the wooden superstructure of the steel-hulled vessel, which the U.S. Coast Guard maintains runs afoul of the 1966 Safety of the Seas law.

The Delta Queen sought an exemption to the law every few years, until a dispute between the Seafarers labor union and then-owner Majestic America in 2007. In the end, U.S. Rep Jim Oberstar, a Minnesota Democrat, allegedly blocked the exemption that year.

Starting in 2009, the 88-stateroom boat operated as a hotel with a bar and restaurant on Chattanooga’s riverfront as the U.S. House and Senate debated its fate.

The Delta Queen is owned by Xanterra Parks & Resorts Inc. a Denver, Colo.-area company controlled by Denver billionaire Phil Anschutz.